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Creamy American buttercream is the go-to for all your cakes! This easy frosting requires no eggs, so it’s easy to whip up in minutes.
One thing I love to do is make cakes for my family’s birthdays. Even if we’re not planning a big gathering, we still have a cake!
I used to be overwhelmed with the idea of frosting a cake, but once I learned how to make my own frosting and embraced my cake decorating kit, I fell in love.
If you’re ready to take the next step from canned frosting, give this American buttercream a try. It spreads on cakes easily, and can be flavored or colored in a variety of ways.
Types of buttercream frosting
If you’re a fan of baking or baking shows, you might know there are a few different kinds of buttercream.
Swiss buttercream uses a double boiler to lightly cook egg whites and sugar together before adding butter.
Italian buttercream, also called Italian meringue buttercream, is made using a sugar syrup whipped into raw egg whites.
German buttercream is custard-based, using egg yolks and cornstarch.
This recipe is for American-style buttercream, which requires no eggs or heating. It’s sweeter than the other varieties, but holds up well for decorating cakes and cupcakes.
What’s the difference between frosting and icing?
While some use the terms frosting and icing interchangeably, they are different things!
Frosting is thick and buttercream based. It’s most often used for topping cakes, brownies, and bars, though sometimes it is used for cookies like Lofthouse-style cookies. Frosting holds its shape, while icing does not.
Icing is mainly powdered sugar with milk or water to bind it together into a pourable coating. Icing hardens quickly and is great for cookies or cinnamon rolls.
How to sift powdered sugar
It’s important to sift your powdered sugar before mixing it with the butter.
Powdered sugar (also called confectioners sugar) often clumps in the packaging. In order to break up the clumps and ensure the sugar is light and airy, we sift it.
To sift your sugar, lay a flat piece of parchment paper on the counter.
Using a flour sifter or a fine skimmer, add a small amount of sugar. Shake the sifter or skimmer over the paper, tapping the side of it against your hand to help the sugar fall through the holes.
Repeat in batches until all your sugar is sifted. To transfer into a bowl, bring up the sides of the paper and carefully tip the middle into the bowl.
I like to add half the sugar to my bowl, then the butter, and then the rest of the sugar. This helps prevent the butter from sticking to the bottom of the bowl and not getting mixed.
How to make American buttercream
To make buttercream frosting, you’ll need either a stand mixer or a large bowl with an electric hand mixer. I prefer the stand mixer, as you can simply turn it on and let it go to work for you.
Add the sifted powdered sugar and softened butter to your bowl and beat on medium until well mixed.
Add the milk, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on low speed until incorporated, then turn to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
This can take 6-8 minutes, so don’t skimp on the time that is needed to add enough air!
Add more milk as needed to make your frosting the desired consistency.
That’s it! Now you have homemade frosting for all your favorite cakes.
This recipe makes enough for an 8- or 9-inch layer cake or 24 cupcakes. Double it if you need more!
The trick to getting smooth frosted cakes is to frequently scrap off excess frosting and dip your spreader into a cup of warm water, then continue spreading. It will look a bit wet as you go along, but the frosting will harden up beautifully.
Customizing American buttercream
I like to use a mixture of vanilla extract and almond extract in my buttercream. If you want a pure vanilla flavor, I recommend using vanilla bean paste, which will give your frosting a lovely speckled appearance.
To make your frosting whiter, use clear vanilla extract.
You can also add a tiny amount of purple gel food coloring to counteract the yellow from the butter. Be careful, a little goes a long way!
For chocolate buttercream, replace ½ cup of the powdered sugar with unsweetened cocoa powder. Be sure to sift it just like with the sugar to remove any clumps.
Use orange juice and a bit of orange zest for a citrus flavored buttercream. You can even use orange extract, if you have some.
To make cinnamon buttercream, add 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon after mixing ingredients. Taste and add more as needed.
You can also add pureed fruit, like in my blackberry buttercream. Make sure to strain out the seeds if needed!
Storing buttercream frosting
You can make buttercream in advance and store it, or store leftovers as needed.
Place in an airtight container, or cover the bowl. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
You can also freeze frosting. Store it in an airtight container and freeze for up to 6 months.
Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
When ready to use, whip frosting to re-fluff it, then use as needed.
This homemade vanilla buttercream frosting is so easy to make, you’ll be coming up with excuses for baking cakes!
- 1 cup 2 sticks butter, softened
- 4 cups 1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 to 4 tablespoons milk
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Add butter and sifted powdered sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low to bring ingredients together, then turn to medium and beat until well mixed.
- Add 2 tablespoons milk, vanilla, and almond extract. Beat on low until incorporated, then turn to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, at least 5 minutes. Add more milk as needed for desired consistency. Spread on cake as desired.
what a beautiful cake!! and how I do love a good butter cream!
I also heart a good buttercream; my go-to recipe involves egg whites… wonder what just butter and sugar would taste like.
But wow, that looks delicious. 🙂
Yeah, this is for when I don’t want to fiddle with using eggs, which is most of the time. After working with egg whites for macarons, I’m kind of sick of seeing them!
@Kim at Rustic Garden Bistro, it would taste like horrible “American” style buttercreme… not at all a buttercreme in the classical sense.
Yes it pipes nicely, but this recipe could NEVER be my Go to recipe for frosting. I wouldnt be able to ever eat it; far far far too sweet.
Some people (especially those who might not be exposed to French & Swiss Buttercreams on the regular) love the super-sweet frosting. After all, our palettes were trained on Duncan Hines & Betty Crocker.
To each their own, no reason to be quite so harsh!
If you like it, Megan, then work it out, girl!
Guessing you have a reputation to live up to but this is pretty standard for American tastes; it’s no secret we like things sweeter on the whole (good or bad, it’s true!).
I’ve used a buttercream frosting almost exactly like this for years, mostly for my kids and friends birthday cakes and I can tell you this Megan, not one of them complained; yours looks perfect!
@BitchyChef, wow, you are living up to ur name! Horrible “American” style buttercreme… Go eat some frosting, seems you might need a little sweetness in ur life.
I actually love sweet frosting. YUM! I especially love the picture of the sliced cake. YUM!
This is still sweet, but has more flavor than just straight-up sugar.
I can’t eat cake, but have been craving frosting like crazy. The stuff from the store doesn’t cut it, and it has all of that processed gunk in it, so I cannot wait to make a fresh batch of this to curb my sweet tooth. Thanks for sharing!
Your cake is beautiful. I am always looking for a good frosting recipe – I’ll give this a try next time.
You know, as much as I love and appreciate a really, really good Italian or French buttercream, there are some times (weeknights, anyone?) when I don’t relish the thought of scrubbing sugar syrup out of a pot.
Also, there are some people who deserve me cooking a sugar syrup and some people who do not. (Can you tell I hate making anything involving boiling sugar? I’ve had enough burns, thanks. F*ck croquembouche.) And yet, I’m making some goooooood buttercream this weekend.
But I’ll still go back to butter and sugar; I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again!
I like to thin mine with vodka instead of milk. I’ve read this makes it a little more stable — nothing to worry about at room temperature.
Exactly! I hate cooking sugar and fiddling with egg whites, and during the week there is no way that is happening. Plus I have tasted far too many Swiss buttercreams that taste like butter to make it an appealing thing to make.
I would have used vodka if we had some, but our house is fairly booze-free.
I hate super-sugary frosting. It ruins the cake! Buttercream rules…I could eat it straight with a spoon. Yum.
Can I just say YUM to your recipe (I also use almond extract in mine, and it is the secret)!
Also YUM to the cake photos, both whole cake and sliced.
Ya done good using the Wilton set!
It’s true – Italian buttercream definitely has its place in my repertoire, but sometimes it’s good to have a great butter/powedered sugar recipe on hand. Thanks for sharing this recommendation. Bookmarking it for sure!
I’m not generally a buttercream fan. But, I like the addition of the almond here. You’re a doll for making a cake this lovely on the fly!
Looks great! Love the slice. Definitely prefer swiss meringue for myself… but I don’t enjoy making it for everyone else all the time :/ Do you think this would be as good without the almond? Allergy alert!
The almond helps cut down on the sweetness. You could try doubling the vanilla, but I’m not confident in the same result. Maybe someone else could chime in here!
This is a great post and the cake is cute as a button. I often struggle with frosting so the more detailed accounts of how to do it better, the better. Cheers!
Hi I just tried you’re buttercream recipe and although I love the taste, the texture is very oily and curdly (if that’s a word). Do you have any suggestions?
@Renee, I just sent you an e-mail!
I hate biting into a cake or cupcake only to discover that the frosting is subpar! I am so going to have to try this!
You did a fine job. While I love Swiss Buttercream ( love the buttery taste ) is good, I also love this kind of frosting as well.
This looks wonderful! The photo of the sliced cake is amazing and reminds me that I continue to struggle with frosting between layers without the cake crumbling into the frosting. Is it my cake recipe? The frosting? Suggestions or hints greatly appreciated.
If your cake crumbles into your frosting you may want to thin out your frosting. If you want a little bit more substance to your frosting (I don’t.) then you can freeze your cake first. Alternatively you can also employ a crumb coat, which is basically a thin layer of frosting that you freeze, preventing you from getting any crumbs on the subsequent layer of frosting. For additional fun use a little bit of food coloring for your crumb coat!
Oh and I’ve never liked American style buttercreme. They’ve always been either sickly sweet or far too buttery. The butter/powdered sugar thing seems far too much like a cop-out; for those disinclined to boubleboiling eggs. If you’re baking AND decorating a cake you might as well go the whole nine yards. And maybe use fondant?
@phil, you complain about the taste of American-style buttercream and yet suggest fondant? Ugh. Even the best from-scratch honey-rum fondant I’ve made is still a mass of sugar paste.
That slice of cake looks delectable! May I ask for the time and temp difference, if any, to this recipe when you convert from cupcake to a whole cake?
@Nuri, The temperature remains the same, but you do need to increase the baking time. I think I cooked these for 25 minutes and then constantly checked on them until they were done. The top should spring back and a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Sorry I can’t be more specific!
i’m on stumbleupon and came across this. i’ve always loved buttercream, to me it is the most delicious icing in the world. i don’t bake or cook much but always have wanted to and i think i would enjoy doing this recipe. when i finally do it i’ll let you know how it turns out. hopefully it won’t be too flat-out buttery. the cake looks amazing and it’s adorable. <3
Is the butter salted or not?
Unless stated otherwise, all the butter in recipes on this site is unsalted.
Thanks for your comment!
I do not like a sickly sweet frosting either, so I did a little experimenting and this is what I came up with. I add approximately 1/2 of an 8 oz package of softened cream cheese to a single recipe of frosting. It cuts down on the sweetness, but does not taste like a “cream cheese” frosting or butter. You can add more or not as much, depending on your preference. I have had MANY MANY compliments on my frosting.
i have no yet tried this way of making buttercream icing…i’m sure it is delicious! Why i’m actually commenting on here is to apologize. Some of the other comments on here were rather rude and unnecessary! While i understand you may appreciate input, some of the people who wrote were extremely mean about it. So, i am apologizing for them…no one likes to be spoken to that way!
Beautiful cake.. now look what you have done.. I WANT a pretty cake like this for my birthday… 😀 Its really pretty.. Well done. 🙂 and thanks for sharing..
@Erin- the only reason for the rude comments was because of the initial rude comment the chef made.
@Megan- I cannot wait to try this! sounds utterly delicious
just made this frosting! have been waiting to try it! though it is VERY sweet i absoulutly… LOVED ITTTTTT!!! it is soooo good! im going to be putting it on a plain white cake so…i hope it tastes great!
omg i adore butter cream frosting, i’ve never had it with almond extract but i am bookmarking you so that i can try this recipe the next time i feel the impulse to bake a cake simply for some frosting 😀 thx so much for sharing!!
Your photos are beautiful – the frosting is so white! I always fear with the yellow of the butter and the extracts that the frosting will be tinted yellow. If I follow the recipe exacty – it will be as white as yours, right?! I’m doing my best friend’s bridal shower cake this week and her wedding cake next month – I need to be sure that the frosting is as white as can be!
I too am always looking for a good buttercream recipe. This was the first one I found in searching for a good one to top off my son’s 2nd birthday cake, and I tell you what… I will NEVER use another buttercream recipe again!
This was so delicious, all the parents were asking me for the recipe, and there wasn’t a piece of cake left! I will post pictures of the cake on my website for those to see… it is the Toy Story themed cake.
Thanks so much!!
I never eat the frosting unless I am absolutely sure it’s just cream, or just chocolate.
A really great recipe – I loved the multiple layers of buttercream, really keeps it nice and moist. Thanks!
look so cute :3